Electing our new PEN International President

Dear PEN Members,

For the first time since 1921, we will have a woman colleague as our International President. All three candidates are wonderful: Jennifer Clement, Vida Ognjenovic and Zeynep Oral.In view of the equality of all three candidates, the international situation is an important factor in this election. Amidst growing chaotic oppression and more bloodshed each day, I’d like to share my view as a former member of PEN International Board.

The equality of men and women has been on the agenda of every civilized movement. Unfortunately, it is menaced by sectarian religious organizations and governments in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Writers, poets, playwrights, critics, cartoonists, bloggers, journalists, editors, translators, publishers, performers, and peaceful demonstrators are under attack in many ways. There are also wars, armed conflicts, tragedies including those of beheaded children, sexual slavery, torture and terrified refugees. Linguistic and LGBTI rights are still far from being recognised in so many places.

PEN Letter August 2015

6 August 2015

Dear / Esteemed PEN members,

I am writing the letter for August in pain. Once more our country is engulfed in a pool of blood!

Two days ago, we published a statement in the name of PEN Turkey Directorial Board: “PEN Turkey calls the Parliament on Duty: and the Authorities to Exercise the Language of Peace.” Our friend, Nihat Ateş, delivered our call to all the members. I won’t repeat it here.
(Those who’ve missed it take a look here: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/koseyazisi/338661/Ulkeyi_savaslara_mahk_m_e...)

This was neither our first call nor the last… We had condemned the Suruc Massacre claimed by ISIS on the 20th of July with the following words:

“32 young lives have been brutally taken from our hands in Suruc. We condemn this massacre that took place at the Amara Cultural Centre during a press release. We demand from the authorities two bring those responsible for this attack against Turkey, humanity and brotherhood to justice. The language of peace has always been harder to exercise then the language of war. We have always stood up for peace. And now we will work to defend it even stronger… We wish patience to the families and friends of out brothers that lost their lives and wish a speedy recovery for those that were injured.”

PEN Letter July 2015

13 July 2015

Dear / Esteemed PEN members,

The people made their choice in the General Elections held on the 7th of June. Yet although a month has passed since, the will of the people has not been reflected on the Parliament. The coalition negotiations only recently started after a months delay. “Early elections” and “re-election” are still on the agenda…

The month of July brought with it sad news for our world of literature. The intellectual teacher of "Köy Enstitüleri" (The Village Institutes- which were the sourse of enlightement in villages in the 1930's...) and skillful poet Mehmet Başaran has passed away. Our Directory Board wished him well with the following words:

“ Our literary world, our world of publishing, education, linguistics, our intellectual life, our memories of the Village Institutes have suffered another loss. Poet Mehmet Başaran. One of the first members of PEN Turkey… One of our ingenious avant-gardes. The tireless ant of criticism. The teacher of Turkish... One of those that always shares his contentious personality and his wisdom within… As we wish him well onto eternity, we wish his family, close friends, admirers and all his students’ patience, let the divine light be upon him.”

"Letters from Zeynep Oral -President of PEN- Turkey"

11 June 2015

Dear / Esteemed PEN members,

The month of June brought with it the elections in Turkey. After an election campaign where all the reserves of the state were issued to the service of the ruling party; the constitution was overruled and all the opposition parties were deemed as enemies, the people made their choice on the 7th of June. They acted in favor of pluralism instead of a single mans authority. They chose peace and dialogue over separatism, war and fighting; a parliamentary regime over the dictatorial regime of Turkish Presidency that feeds on violence and tension.

We hope that this election held in our country which has been turned into an empire of Fear will put an end to lawlessness, the rupture of education, separationism, prohibition and suppression against the freedom of thought and speech, theft, robbery, destruction and violence.

PEN’s agenda was yet again very busy during the last month.

Turkey: Criminal complaint against journalist Can Dündar must be dropped

3 June 2015

PEN Turkey, English PEN and PEN International are seriously concerned for Can Dündar, editor-in-chief of Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, who has been accused of espionage by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan. PEN is calling for the complaint brought against him by Erdoǧan’s lawyer to be dropped.


According to reports, President Erdoğan yesterday submitted a criminal complaint via his lawyer demanding Dündar’s trial and imprisonment in relation to an article and video that were published on the Cumhuriyet website on Friday 29 May.
The video, now removed from the website following a court order, showed Turkish gendarmerie officials in the southern province of Adana discovering large quantities of ammunition on civilian trucks reportedly belonging to Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency in January 2014. The trucks were allegedly bound for the Syrian border.
Following the publication of the video, Erdoğan has been openly critical of Dündar, accusing him and the Cumhuriyet newspaper of engaging in espionage on live television.
Dündar has also been subjected to fierce attacks by the pro-government media in Turkey, who have accused him of treason, espionage and complicity in an international conspiracy against Erdoğan and Turkey.
Erdoğan’s lawyer has reportedly demanded two life sentences for Dündar in this latest criminal complaint and has accused him of: ‘forming an illegal organisation, crimes against the state, obtaining confidential information pertaining to national security, political and military espionage, unlawfully making confidential information public and attempting to influence a trial’. This is at least the fourth case that Erdoğan has attempted to bring against Dündar in the last 13 months, including an ongoing defamation case, the next hearing of which is scheduled for 17 September 2015.
Zeynep Oral, President of PEN Turkey, said: ‘We, the writers of PEN Turkey, still want to believe that  this is a democratic country; that we have respect for freedom of expression. The duty of a newspaper, of a journalist, is to inform the readers and to let the public know the truth about what is happening.  Can Dündar , a member of PEN Turkey,  fulfilled his  responsibility  as the  editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet daily  by publishing an  article and photographs. The 168 writers and employees took full responsibility for this report along with their Editor in Chief. And we, the Executive Commitee of PEN Turkey, stand together with our colleague Can Dündar’.
Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN, said: ‘PEN believes that the criminal complaint levelled at Dündar is wholly illegitimate and that it is an attempt to punish him for journalistic work that falls within the public interest. The ongoing war in Syria is a topic of great importance to the Turkish public and they have every right to know whether their government has been delivering arms across the border. PEN condemns the criminal complaint against Dündar and calls on the Turkish judiciary to reject categorically these attempts to bring him to trial.’

Turkey: PEN protests mass arrests of journalists and screenwriters

(15 December 2014, London) PEN International, PEN Turkey and English PEN are deeply concerned by the news that five journalists and six screenwriters have been detained as part of a wide-reaching anti-terror probe into the Gülen movement in Turkey. The detained journalists and screenwriters are amongst 31 people who were reportedly taken into custody on 14 December 2014 “on suspicion of involvement in an illegal organisation” following a series of police raids in the cities of Istanbul, Eskişehir and Van. The arrests have come against a backdrop of escalating political tensions between Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the followers of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen. The detained journalists and screenwriters could face lengthy sentences in prison if charges are brought under Turkey’s draconian Anti-Terror Law.

Archive Museum of Turkish Writers Union is to be Vacated


The Literary Archive Museum, which was opened by Turkish Writers’ Union in 2002 under a protocol with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in order to protect and promote the unique values of our literature, is attempted to be vacated.

The protocol for our archive would be renewed every five years. The protocol was to be renewed for a second time when we submitted our “request of renewal” on April 21, 2011.

After this procedure, our Union continued the usual operation of the Archive Museum. However, with a statement dated the 30th of January, 2012, we were demanded to cancel the protocol and vacate the Archive Museum. Our Union’s action for nullity was dismissed by the Administrative Court. The case is appealed.

Over the past decade, our Union has enriched the Archive with the first editions of the books, drafts of the poems and proses in original handwriting, photographs and writing utensils of many authors including Nâzım Hikmet, Şükran Kurdakul, Enver Gökçe, Aziz Nesin, Arif Damar, Melih Cevdet Anday, Cemal Süreya and Asım Bezirci.

We have negotiated the issue of protecting or assigning a new place for the Archive Museum with Ertuğrul Günay, the former Minister of Culture, and Ömer Çelik, the current Minister of Culture, but no answer could be received from the ministers.

World Theatre Day - Theater is under oppression -just like life is


Theatre is condensed life. In Turkey,theatre is under oppression just like life is. As PEN Turkey, we simply cannot accept this situation. The "new normal" is not a democratic normal. We are determined to insist on the goal of a secular and democratic Republic of Turkey.

27 March World Theatre Day is an invitation to liberation.

PEN Turkey Centre

Open Air Gas Chamber

Enemies of nature, Istanbul Park and the goal of a secular and democratic Turkey are attacking peaceful protestors by forming an open air gas chamber!

We strongly protest the inhuman attacks.

PEN Turkey Centre

PEN Int'l condemns investigation against PEN Turkey

As a result of an announcement constituting support for Fazıl Say that we gave as the PEN Board on 3 June [2012], we were called to the prosecutor's office to submit an official statement under Article 301. On 10 January 2013, we submitted an offficial statement. In the announcement that is the subject of the complaint, we said the following:

"As the Turkey Centre of the international writers association PEN, we strongly condemn and meet with consternation the [news] that our esteemed composer and pianist Fazıl Say has been called up to court. The international community has been put on alert in the face of fascist developments in Turkey."

In the official statement we submitted as the board, we outlined that the above words were an expression of thought and a criticism, that they were not intended as being aimed as an insult. We emphasised that the right to criticise, a constitutional and legal right, was being exercised. As a result, it was requested that a decision not to prosecute would be given.

PEN Board
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